Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters for the Montmartre entertainment scene have outlived the notoriety of the performers they once promoted. But during the 1890s these images functioned as part of a multifaceted system of commercial representation through which figures like Jane Avril, Aristide Bruant, Loïe Fuller, and Yvette Guilbert wooed their respective publics.
In this lecture, Howard Lay, associate professor in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Michigan, offers a nuanced analysis of Toulouse-Lautrec’s posters, many of which are included in the current exhibition Spectacle and Leisure in Paris: Degas to Mucha, to provide additional context on the proliferation of promotional imagery in late 19th-century Paris. To reacquaint these posters with their own historical moment is to see them, at least provisionally, through the eyes of the fin-de-siècle Parisians to whom their messages were originally directed.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, 1864–1901), Jane Avril, 1893. Color lithograph, 51 3/16 x 37". Gift of John F. Lesser in memory of Jenny Nathan Strauss, 2000.